Oil on canvas, 24ins x 20ins
William Etty (1787-1949, born in York but working in London,was famous for his paintings based on the nude,constituting a regular, if controversial, feature in the Royal Academy's annual exhibitions from around 1820 until the year of his death. However,happily other genres for which he is less well known,Etty particularily liked painting studies from male models of non- European origin-clothed, usually in exotic dress-and sometimes incorporating arms or armour. He sought out such models in London,rather than encountering them on his foreign travels,which were limited to France, Italy and the Low Countries.
The turbaned and manacled figure in the present work was almost certainly the Indian Mendoo,a favourite model of Etty's for well over a decade. According to the artist's biographer Alexander Gilchrist, writing in 1855, Mendoo posed for the male protagonist in Pluto carrying off Proserpine, exhibited at the Academy in 1835 and sat for "many another work". Thirteen years later news of Mendoo being taken to hospital was specifically sent from London to Etty in York, following the artist's retirement there in 1848.
It is probable that the painting displayed here was closely related to Etty's "The Indian Alarmed",now untraced, for which Mendoo modelled, posing in the life room of the Academy with the trappings of shield, bow and arrows and sword. This latter work was painted early in 1845 by Etty for his brother Charles, to whom the artist wrote of the subject as having " his bow and arrows ready, listening to a coming enemy".The present work undoubtedly began similarily as a life-room study , being completed by the invention of a landscape setting. It was perhaps intended as a companion to "The Indian Alarmed" depicting a subsequent moment in the latter's implied narrative, with the subject, clearly of high social status,now taken prisoner, disarmed and restrained by the enemy.
Usually, Etty chose to show his studies of what he would have regarded as exotic at the British Institution, rather than the Royal Academy. Such exhibits as exotic types at the British Institution, rather than the Royal Academy. Such exhibits included the Head of a Jew (1827), The Persian (1834,now Tate Collection), Head of a Mohammedan (1841) and An Isrealite Indeed (1847, now Manchester Art Gallery). however , the Indian Alarmed was presented at the Academy in 1845:both that painting and the present work stand slightly apart from the generality of these studies in having an added narrative dimension.
The picture preserves its original frame with strap-work decoration , of a kind Etty often favoured. Similar decoration is found on the frames to portraits by Thomas Lawrence, with whom Etty had been apprenticed for one year from July 1807.
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